I just picked up a copy of Dr. Rick Blackwood’s The Power of MultiSensory Preaching and Teaching (Zondervan, 2009). Dr. Blackwood pastors Christ Fellowship in Palmetto, FL. I’ve read about half of the book and spent a bit of time flipping around the rest of the chapters and the two appendixes. In many ways this book reminds me of Dan Kimball’s Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations. I’ve always found Kimball to be a very solid voice within the emerging church movement. Blackwood’s book is just as relevant and just as thought provoking. The subtitle for the book is, “Increase attention, comprehension, and retention.” Yes, it’s another book on ministry within a post-modern culture. More than that, its another book on preaching and teaching within a culture that has become radically “dumbed-down” in the past 100 years. While I’m certain that our culture’s lack of intellectual prowess is not entirely due to public education, it goes without saying that education is not nearly as “academic” as it once was. I believe this is true for public schooling, private schooling, and home schooling. Rigorous education standards are simply no longer there. The age of “free learning” has taken root and I highly doubt this will ever change.

So, this brings us to the subject at hand. While one can (and probably should) take a stand against the lazy educational system around us, one must also note that we have a responsibility and mandate to do our best to reach our culture / society in the best way that we can.

This is rather difficult. One cannot take certain theological issues for granted within many of our American churches. The doctrine of Justification is no longer a standard Protestant axiom. Nor are other important truths (e.g., the Doctrine of the Trinity, progressive sanctification, etc.). Thus, Blackwood’s book seems to present some balanced insights into reaching people with the message of the Scriptures.

Blackwood breaks his chapters into three parts: Presenting the Multisensory Effect, Preparing a Multisensory Message, and Preaching a Multisensory Message.

Again, I need to stress how balanced Blackwood’s approach is. It is not a typical “make-your-message-relevant-by-taking-out-the-message-of-sin-and-just-use-lots-of-cool-pictures-and-dramas” theory. Rather, Blackwood lays out solid statistical research that concludes that multisensory messages are by far much more effective at accomplishing the subtitle – increasing attention, comprehension, and retention.

What’s rather intriguing to me is that I personally couldn’t agree more with Blackwood’s framework. This past Sunday I used sound, sight, smell, and touch during my message. I stayed biblical, exegetical, and theological. I even stressed the doctrine of Total Depravity throughout the message and made mention of the human sin problem clearly. In other words, while the message was multisensory, I in no way, shape, or form watered down the Gospel.

So, all those who reduce multisensory preaching and teaching to either liberal or seeker-friendly churches simply need to consider the phrase “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” We have much we can learn about learning from Blackwood. And as preachers and teachers, even more so.

I’m still evaluating this book, but thus far, I like a lot of what is being said!

Closing thoughts…

  • Do you take notes when you listen to sermons?
  • What helps you “connect” with a message best – visual aids, touch, smell, or physical action?
  • What % of a message do you think is commonly retained amongst learners?
  • What % of a message do you think is commonly retained amongst learners under multisensory teaching?